Bikejoring is growing in popularity in the world of dog sports. More extreme than canicross, and similar to skijoring, dog bikejoring is an adrenaline-packed activity that’s perfect for high-energy dogs and thrill-seeking dog owners. We take a look at what you need to get started with dog bikejoring, and which dogs are best suited to join you in this sport.
What is dog bikejoring?
BIkejoring is a fast-paced, competitive adventure spot that involves a bike rider and either one or two dogs who are harnessed to the bike, and pull out in front as their owner is riding or racing. It’s not a sport for the faint-hearted!
It’s an ideal sport if you love mountain biking already, and you have a dog that’s powerful and naturally enthusiastic about running.
Bikejoring competitions mainly take place in off-road locations, on dirt trails that are primarily flat, and that have few obstacles for you or your dogs to get stuck on. The most common races are held as individual time trials for each dog and rider team. These allow all competitors to safely navigate the course without worrying about other dogs and riders getting in the way.
Essential dog bikejoring equipment – what you need to get started
Starting out with a good set of bikejoring equipment will give you the best experience, and help to prevent an injury to you or your dog. At the very least, you need a comfortable harness for your dog, a bike antenna, and a bungee line to prevent your dog getting harmed during racing.
You’ll find dog bikejoring equipment online, in some sports shops, and often at racing competitions too.
You don’t need an expensive mountain bike for bikejoring. As most of the trails are fairly easy to ride, you just need a bike that has reliable brakes (especially rear brakes) and a sturdy frame.
Remember, you’ll have one or two dogs attached to your bike, so you need to be able to steer and brake easily, and your bike frame needs to be able to withstand being dropped and dragged – especially when you’re just starting out.
When you’re choosing a dog bikejoring harness, look for a well-fitting harness that’s specifically designed for sports like bikejoring. This ensures the appropriate distribution of tension across your dog’s body, and it won’t restrict their chest or shoulders. They need to be able to breathe and move easily when they’re running over long distances.
Dog harnesses for bikejoring should ideally have a Y-shaped front, and fit snugly around their neck. A loose harness can slide down during racing and get uncomfortable for your dog. Pulling harnesses are recommended for stronger dogs, as they’re designed for comfort and ease of movement.
Never attach a leash directly your dog’s collar when you’re bikejoring, as it can restrict their breathing.
Bikejoring line (bungee line)
An elastic line (also known as a bungee, tow line, or tug line) is recommended, instead of a static leash when you’re out bikejoring with your dog. The bungee helps reduce the sensation of abrupt pulls, which makes racing more enjoyable for both you and your dog. make the whole experience of bikejoring more comfortable for you and your dog.
To prevent accidents and injuries, it’s recommended that your elastic line for bikejoring is at least 2.8 meters long.
A bikejoring antenna (or “noodle”) is a rigid attachment that goes on the front of your bike and prevents your dog’s bungee line from getting tangled in your bike wheel. These antennas are typically sturdy, with a flexible base that can bend to follow your dog’s movement as you race.
There are many bike antennas that are designed to fit on the middle or back of your bike, but these are not proper bikejoring antennas and can make racing difficult, and even dangerous.
Make sure you buy an antenna that attaches to the front of your bike, and is specifically designed for bikejoring.
Dog bikejoring booties
Booties or socks for your dog can help prevent paw cuts and injuries when you’re riding on the trails – especially if they’re on tough terrain or gravel. Always check your dog’s paws regularly for any cuts or soreness – and invest in some outdoor booties for your dog if you feel they need them.
If your dog hasn’t done much outdoor running before, make sure you build up their exercise slowly to toughen up their paw pads before you begin bikejoring together.
Don’t forget your own safety: Helmet, gloves, and glasses
When you’re looking at dog bikejoring equipment, don’t forget the basics you need to protect yourself!
Most importantly, always wear a helmet! This is a high speed sport, and if you crash – your brain will thank you for protecting it against trees, rocks, and the road. When you’re racing in competitions, helmets are mandatory accessories.
For extra visibility, ensure your helmet has reflectors, or put some reflective tape on it before you go out racing with your dogs.
Goggles aren’t mandatory for bikejoring, but they make your ride a lot more pleasant. When your dogs are running at a fast pace, they can kick dirt and stones back at you, which can easily go into your eyes. And if it’s cold, goggles can stop your eyes from watering all the time.
When you’re buying goggles, make sure they’re ventilated to stop them fogging up, and impact resistant so that they won’t be affected by flying pieces of gravel.
Whether you choose clear or tinted lenses is a personal preference, and it depends on the situations you’ll be riding in. Opt for clear lenses as a safe choice, or if you’re going to be riding in low light areas.
Rope burn, road rash, and handlebar rash are all common problems when you bikejor. This can easily be avoided by wearing leather or synthetic gloves that are designed for mountain biking, motocross, or other extreme outdoor sports.
A mirror on your helmet or handlebars isn’t essential, but you’ll find it helpful to see what’s behind you while you’re riding.
Helmet mirrors tend to have a little more longevity, as they’re not getting smashed around on your bike frame – plus you can angle helmet mirrors so you can always see your dog without having to look down at your handlebars.
Which dogs are best for bikejoring?
The International Sled Dog Racing Association states that any breed of dog that can be taught to pull a towline and respond to commands can participate in a bikejoring team.
Any dog that loves to run out front and is enthusiastic about going crazy-fast is an ideal candidate for this sport. Your dog should have a good level of fitness, and be confident and strong. BIkejoring is great for your dog’s health and mental stimulation, plus it gives you and your dog more quality bonding time. Bikejoring is a team sport, after all!
If your dog is nervous about running next to a bike, or gets spooked easily, it’s probably not a good idea to involve them in this sport.
Breeds that naturally excel at mushing, pulling, and ice or dryland racing (e.g. Huskies) are obvious choices for dog bikejoring. But other dogs are also great at this, including:
The fast pace of bikejoring isn’t recommended for puppies who have softer bones and are still growing, small dog breeds who can’t handle pulling or long distance running, or senior dogs – especially if they have mobility problems.
If you have a dog that you’d love to take on bike rides, but they can’t handle the pace and pressure of an intense sport like bikejoring – get them used to riding with you in a dog bike carrier or trailer.
Does bikejoring require any training for you or your dog?
If your dog is a natural leader who always pulls on the leash and wants to stay in front of you – the chances are they won’t require much training for bikejoring.
For other dogs, it’s best to start them off slowly on your own time, and get them used to the trails and commands that are used in the sport. Joining a casual bikejoring team can help your dog learn the ropes and get motivated, simply by watching the other dogs running.
Useful commands for your dog include training them to understand and respond to:
- Turn left
- Turn right
- Straight on
- Slow down
- Go faster
Hydration and overheating
Something that’s often overlooked during dog bikejoring is dehydration and heat stroke. These can be fatal for your dog.
When you’re racing, it’s on you to regularly check that your dog is okay. Dogs are all too willing to please, and often don’t realize when they’re in danger of heat stroke. Know the signs and symptoms of overheating, and always ensure you bring plenty of water and a dog bowl with you to keep your pet regularly hydrated as you train.
If you run out of water, it’s better to go home or find more water first than risk your dog’s life by continuing to race.
Where can you try out dog bikejoring?
If you’re keen to give dog bikejoring a go, search online or in social media groups for a local club near you – so you can get some guidance and learn the ropes and rules of the sport.
If you’re interested in competing, you can learn more about dog bikejoring at the United States Federation of Sleddog Sports website.
In summary – is dog bikejoring right for you?
If you’re looking for ways to keep your dog fit and well-exercised, and you love adrenaline sports – dog bikejoring might be just what you’ve been searching for.
With some basic equipment and a bit of practice, you and your pup could soon be enjoying some thrills (and hopefully not too many spills) out in the beauty of nature. Who knows – you might even become bikejoring champions!
The investment to get started in this sport is minimal – especially if you already own a good mountain bike – and you’ll be well rewarded with a ton of enjoyment and a stronger bond with your pet.
And remember – it’s always a good idea to give your dog a health check at the vet’s first, to ensure they’re in top condition for this fast-paced adventure sport.